Google minimizes clickbait visibility in English Search results

Originally published at: Google minimizes clickbait visibility in English Search results | Boing Boing


“Anyone with tooth decay should watch this”

Too bad advertisers still love clickbait titles


For example, if you search for information about a new movie, you might have previously seen articles that aggregated reviews from other sites without adding perspectives beyond what’s available elsewhere.

This is a euphemism for, “there are sites that are selling ads against thoughtful curation of information and we want to keep the money those sites are making.”

I know it will do no good at all for me to rant about Google here, but Danny doesn’t have comments and perhaps it will make me feel better.

Google likes to pretend two things:

  1. they can’t control the algorithm
  2. they’re not evil

neither is actually true. Every time they can tweak the algorithm and the layout to increase profits at the expense of smaller organizations, they do.



The latest evil that rankles me (and feels anti-trust worthy if that was ever enforced anymore) are those “summary” boxes at the top of every search result.

It looks like a handy overview of information, but what they’re actually doing is scraping other people’s sites and posting the data on their own so that you don’t leave Google with subsequent clicks. In the process they are literally stealing content and ad revenue (because you never click through) from smaller hard-working sites who assemble that information.

It’s automated content and revenue theft.


I have the sense that Google Search is struggling to stay relevant amidst (a) the increasing annexation of the web by walled gardens like Facebook, and (b) a tide of bullshit websites that have learned to game Google’s algorithms efficiently. For instance, try searching for a product name plus “review” – you get page after page of what Google euphemistically calls “low quality” sites, clearly generated by content farms and pushed to the top of the results by SEO shenanigans. The usefulness of Google search results has definitely declined in recent years.

Mind you, I should talk. Google shows that a large number of visitors to my own site are led there by searching for “(some brand name) fireworks”. It so happens that ‘(some brand name)’ matches the name of my site, and I happen to have a lot of photographs of fireworks on my site. So while the search terms technically match up, it’s pretty clear that my site is not what they’re looking for. So how did I respond? Did I say “Oh no, this is terrible, you poor people don’t want MY site, you want THIS site”?

Did I hell. Instead, I said “You fuckers want fireworks? I’ll give you fireworks” and went and added even more photos of fireworks (very pretty and original photos, to be sure) to my site. Shameless clickbait’r’us.

I expect to be punished by some future Google algorithm release, and so I should be.


Huge missed opportunity with the article title.

“You won’t believe this one thing Google’s doing about clickbait!”


This reply makes me exceptionally sad at the corrupting power of clickbait and ad revenue.

The Old Internet was “post whatever interested you”, and if no one came, who cares. (NARRATOR: Everybody really, really cared.)

The new Internet is a bunch of people doing things that mostly don’t interest them because the ad revenue is too nice.

You adding more fireworks photos to chase eyeballs is a mistake, but not by you, by society for rewarding such behavior.


What you say is very true. Although I don’t actually run third-party ads on my site, so I’m still in the “post whatever interested you” phase of the Web. And like everyone else, of course, I really really care that no one else seems to find what I offer interesting enough to visit. Hence my own little feeble attempt at firework-related clickbait.

The difference between the old and new Web is that in the old-style web, we were seeking validation – enough people going “Wow, that’s cool” to make us feel appreciated or to feel that we’ve given something of value to the world – and in the new-style Web we’re seeking ad revenue – enough people eyeballing our page that Google tosses a few pennies our way. These different incentives produce different outcomes in terms of quality: if you want people to like the things you make, you strive to make something neat, whereas if you want ad revenue, you just figure out how to game the search engines and trick people into clicking through. Sure, you could make something genuinely good or interesting and hope to make money that way … but most people seem to find it a lot easier just to throw up some algorithmically-generated clickbait.

As for the dreaded Web3, it looks like being the ‘new Web’ on steroids, with an added layer of turbo-grifting. I’m not optimistic that it will do much to encourage people to make anything of real interest or value.


Well, that didn’t really change. All the enthusiasts with their hand-written websites about the history of spatulas or whatever are all still out there. Capitalism came and took over all the empty space (as it was always going to) but the internet is infinite, so nobody got pushed out by that.


i think there’s a built in desire for human connection or at least human utility of work ( art, performance ) even for spatula collections. and even when a person is (still) able to post their collection, getting lost in the infinite noise of commercialism and search optimization is - i’d argue - a pushing out

if a tree falls in your backyard, you notice. if a tree falls in a forest, how the heck do you even find it?


The golden age being referred to was before search engines, though.

Enthusiast groups- forums, Usenet, web rings, etc. The internet was already commercial when Google came along, so I don’t think they ruined discoverability of niche content. It was always tricky to find. The fact that you could find it and access it is what was amazing. Previously one would toil in obscurity their entire lives on their love of spatulas. Now you can find the other 50 devotees in a forum and share your sites! Maybe even host an aggregator page for the community!

Search engines are not for community. Community has always been how niche lovers find each other, and the internet made so those communities can be virtual.


At least until the community splits into two or more warring factions about some nuance of spatulae fed through a filter of ego and pettiness. Moderator(s) try to deal, a couple of shitposters sow division for ‘fun’…

Hmm. Apparently my cynicism is turned to 11 today.


I’ll believe the utility of this when I see it.

An additional strike against these summaries is due to being just auto-scraped from other sites the information being presented hasn’t been vetted and is often wrong or misleading or otherwise unhelpful. While in the correct context provided by the full site its scraped from the info can be properly evaluated.


A bit rich coming from the company that owns Youtube and the clickbait tiles in EVERY SINGLE video

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